The General Retail Industry award 2010 came in to reign in on the working requirements for the casual workers in Australia. This award introduced a general requirement that all employers comply with a minimum of three hours working shift for persons working in casual employment. This decision was received with great delight by some, but also with hue and cry by others. Those who opposed this award argued that a great number of retail employers engaged school going children for about one and a half hours after school, mainly between half past three and six o’clock in the evening.
The challenge for most of them was that there were no possibilities of flexibility in terms of reduction of school hours, hence the need to completely stop employing school going children. To be able to employ the school children in a manner consistent with the General Retail Industry Award 2010, it meant that they either pay these young workers an equivalent of three hours wages, even when they have only worked half the time, or completely stop the practice.
For most of them, the latter option seemed the most viable, because it didn’t make sense to pay for work that was not done. The young workers also complained that they suffered a loss of jobs as a result of the new regulations and wished for a re-evaluation of the same. On the other hand, the proponents of the new regulations saw that the move to reign on the shift hours was a great benefit to the larger population of Australian casual workers. This move, they said, would act as a safety net for these workers.
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This paper seeks to understand the various positions of the stakeholders in this employment fiasco, provide some suggestions regarding some of the factors that are likely to influence those perspectives, as well as offer a personal view on which way seems most objective. Minimum Shift Working Hours-the Debate As aforementioned, a number of stakeholders have expressed their pleasure, or otherwise, regarding the new requirement that the minimum hours that any employee can be offered must be three. There are a number of stakeholders on either side.
Those on the opposing side include: The United Retail Federation (URF), The Newsagent Federations, the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Master Grocers Australia Limited (MGA), the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), and the National Retail Association (NRA). The proponents of this move include the SDA and the ACTU (Fair Work Australia, 2010). According to the NRA, unless variation is made to the three hours minimum shift, young people are effectively locked out of the workforce.
This, it says, is mainly as a result of the educational commitments of these young people (Needham, 2010). According to them, the greatest negative effect is felt by the school students who have to contend with joblessness. The MGA concurs with the NRA on this issue. According to the MGA, the consultation process for the award modernization did not put this issue of loss of jobs for school students into consideration. It insisted that there ought to be some flexibility in as far as regional areas were concerned.
This would account for the fewer business hours as opposed to cities and suburbs. AFEI agrees that it would be necessary to reduce the minimum hours in order to allow the young employees to balance between school commitments and employment. According to the ACCI, operational requirements ought to have been considered before placing a blanket requirement on all employers. This would go a long way in ensuring that there is no negative impact on productivity, jobs, cost of employment, or viability of businesses.
This view is shared by the Newsagents Federations, who think that there is need to accommodate persons with various needs, so that those unable, due to personal commitments and other reasons, to work a minimum of three hours are not left out. However, in opposing these claims, the SDA asserts that before the decision to fix the minimum shift hours was made, considerations were made by the Full Bench of AIRC. It further argues that the new requirements were established not just for the young employees, but for the entire casual workers’ population.
It would be unfair therefore, to deny those employees wishing to work longer minimum hours. In support of this position, the ACTU argues that there is a real need for stability in terms of modern award system, and hence this new requirement was in the public interest. A major factor that seems to influence the perspective of the opponents of three hours minimum is that a great number of them end up paying less while all of their work is done. This is not likely to be the case in the event that everyone works longer than before. A factor that apparently influences the proponents of standard minimum hours is public interest.
It seems that if a number of factors are put into consideration; working for less than three hours does not allow persons to earn a decent living. In my opinion, a moderate position is much better. This means that the general rule that the minimum wage is three hours should remain, but with the exception that only school students are allowed to work for two hours. This would allow them to prepare for the future that awaits them. Conclusion The principle of inclusivity in the modern awards objectives should be seriously considered before the rule of minimum working hours is changed.
This is because it allows for all to enjoy the benefits of working in a fair and decent environment. This means therefore that, there is need to reconsider the need for a variation in the requirement as submitted by the opponents. School students, being the minority in this case, should not be sidelined in as far as work is concerned, provided they are willing to be engaged in it. This of course must be accompanied by the right regulations. References Australian Council of Trade Unions (July 9, 2010). Minimum Hours Decision Confirms Award Safety Net: Now Abbot and the Liberals must do the same. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.
actu. org. au Fair Work Australia (2010) General Retail Award 2010. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www. fwa. gov. au/index. cfm? pagename=awardsmodernvar010110 Klammer, U. , Wilthagen, T. , & Chung, H. (2008). “Take it or Leave it: Flexible Working Time Arrangements and the Synchronization of Business Cycle and Life Cycle. European Foundation Project Working Paper. McCann, D. (2005). Working Time Laws: A Global Perspective, ILO Needham, K. (February 20, 2010). Grocers Push for Two-hour Minimum Youth Shifts. Sydney Morning Herald Perptich, N. (2010). Gillard Calls Time on Young Matthew’s Job. The Australian Canberra, A. C. T
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